One of the things I love about a good story is the ability to take me out of my here and now and put me into the events facing the protagonist. Even more, I like to step into the hero’s shoes, identifying with her and seeing myself in the story, sharing a sense of camaraderie with the main character.
I solved mysteries with Sherlock Holmes. I started a revolution with Katniss Everdeen. I stood in the galley with Scout and watched Atticus Finch’s closing argument. I learned the magic of words with Liesel in a basement in Germany.
And I betrayed Jesus by a fire outside the high priest’s house in Jerusalem.
That last one is Peter, one of Jesus’ inner circle disciples and one of the people I so often closely identify with when I read about Jesus’ three-year ministry in the gospels. Peter was bold, impetuous, outspoken and sometimes acted without thinking things through.
But there are days like today when I feel like I’m stuck behind the crowd struggling to be heard or to see what’s coming or to do something bold. There are days when I feel more like Zacchaeus than Peter; but usually only the part where he can’t see. That’s too often where I stop the story: feeling desperate and feeling defeated.
But that’s not where Zacchaeus’ story ends.
Zacchaeus’ story is one of tenacity and ingenuity and delight.
1-4 Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.
5-7 When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. (Luke 19:1-7, The Message)
I love the way The Message describes Zacchaeus: He wanted desperately to see Jesus.
But there’s a large crowd separating Zacchaeus from the thing he desperately desires. Even so, Zacchaeus isn’t stymied. He runs ahead on Jesus’ route and climbs a tree so that he’ll catch a glimpse of this man about whom Zacchaeus has heard so much. And I’m betting that he would have been satisfied with that brief glimpse.
But Jesus gives Zacchaeus so much more than he could have possibly imagined; He invited Himself to dinner at Zacchaeus’ home.
Can you even imagine? An audience with the King of Kings when all you were hoping for was a glimpse of Him as he passed by the crowd beneath your sycamore tree?
Because that’s how God works, isn’t it?
Maybe you’ve forgotten that recently as you’ve faced one setback after another. Maybe you’ve forgotten that as you’ve struggled and fought to save your marriage or you’ve faced past due bills and a negative bank account. Maybe you’ve forgotten that as you’ve lost sight of the God-given vision for your life, your marriage, your relationships, your finances, your purpose.
But He hasn’t forgotten you. When you are desperate for Him – desperate to see Him, to feel Him, to hear from Him, know that He hasn’t forgotten you.
What’s in your way? What’s keeping you from seeing Him? Take your lead from Zacchaeus and get to a place where you can see Him even just a little bit. Watch for Him. Anticipate Him. That’s all Zacchaeus did. He put himself in a place where he could see Jesus. Jesus did the rest.
Jesus looks up and declares, Today is my day to be with you.
Don’t ever doubt that Jesus speaks these words to you every day. We may not always hear them because the crowd of our fear or our doubt or our worry or our troubles or our struggles have cut us off from Him. But take heart. When we are desperate for Him, He is eager to find us and to give us more of Him than we can ask or imagine.
May your story today be one that provides you the kind of delight that brought Zacchaeus scrambling down from his perch in the tree hardly believing his good fortune.